|12-15-2006, 07:07 AM||#1|
Curio & Relic
AKaholic #: 3738
Join Date: Apr 2005
Somali Islamists accuse US of sowing divisions with Al-Qaeda remarks
Somalia's powerful Islamists have accused the United States of seeking to divide their movement by claiming it had been taken over by Al-Qaeda militants.
The Islamists, who are girding for all-out war with the weak Ethiopian-backed Somali government, said Washington was carrying out a smear campaign to split the movement and hurt its popularity.
"America wants to divide us by saying some of us are Al-Qaeda operatives," said Sheikh Abdurahim Ali Muddey, the spokesman for the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) on Friday.
"We have no hardliners ... and America is just intending to derail stability in Somalia," Muddey said. "We have only one motive and that is we want our country safe and at peace."
His comments came a day after the United States blamed the Islamists for undermining efforts to avert a major conflict in Somalia and suggested that an east Africa cell of Osama bin Laden's terror network had seized control of the movement.
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said the development had dimmed hopes of clinching a negotiated settlement to the current crisis.
"The Council of Islamic Courts is now controlled by Al-Qaeda cell individuals," she said, notably mentioning Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the movement's governing Shura Council.
"The top layer of the courts are extremists to the core, they are terrorists and they are creating this logic of war," Frazer told reporters in Washington.
Western intelligence agencies regard Aweys, a firebrand cleric designated a terrorist by the US, as a hardliner linked to Al-Qaeda, but see Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the head of the Islamists top executive committee, as a moderate.
Muddey rejected Frazer's comments, saying they were simply intended "to mislead everybody."
Washington has also accused the Islamists, who recently gave Ethiopian forces a seven-day ultimatum to leave the country, of "undermining" peace efforts with the government.
Diplomats and observers say a war in Somalia could draw in arch-foes Ethiopia and Eritrea and destabilize other neighboring countries, notably Kenya.
Eritrea vehemently denies charges from UN experts it is backing the Islamists in what some have called a proxy war with Ethiopia, with which it is still at odds over their unresolved 1998-2000 border war.
Ethiopia, which has played down the Islamist ultimatum, admits to sending several hundred military trainers and advisers helping the Somali government while denying reports of deploying thousands of combat troops.
Somalia has lacked an effective administration since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and the two-year-old government has failed to exert control across the impoverished nation of 10 million people.
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